Guest Blogger: Lindsay Hovind, Washington Government Relations Director
While the American Heart Association has long been a partner in tobacco prevention and control, you’ve been hearing a lot from us recently about new efforts and wins in the fight against tobacco. The tobacco landscape is changing. Just last month the Centers for Disease Control released data showing that tobacco use has dropped to 15% nationwide; while we’re glad to celebrate this step toward tobacco-free living for so many of our friends and neighbors, we’re seeing worrying trends of rapidly rising e-cigarette use, especially among youth. The American Heart Association has anticipated this multi-front fight against tobacco and continues to lead in many ways.
In 2016 the Washington state Legislature passed legislation to regulate the e-cigarette market and further protect against youth access to these products. Now retailers will be licensed just like tobacco retailers, products must adhere to packaging and labeling regulations, and use is restricted where children often gather. Funds related to the regulation of the market will be used to fund youth tobacco and e-cigarette prevention work throughout the state.
Shortly after Washington moved to keep e-cigarettes away from youth, the Food and Drug Administration extended its authority over tobacco products to include e-cigarettes. This regulation includes a national prohibition on sales to minors, prohibits free samples, and establishes restrictions around ingredients and health claims.
Tobacco to 21
Last month we joined our California colleagues in celebrating the passage of several tobacco control bills. Perhaps most exciting, Governor Brown signed a bill that raised the legal age for purchasing tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to 21. California joins Hawaii as the second state to pass Tobacco to 21 legislation.
In Washington we hope to join California and Hawaii in 2017. Last session Attorney General Bob Ferguson requested legislation to raise Washington’s legal age to purchase tobacco to 21. Though the bill died, we are working with our community and public health partners to launch an even more robust campaign to take this important step to keep tobacco out of the hands of youth.
We have celebrated many exciting wins this year and many exciting possibilities are still ahead!